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EARLYBIRD

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Obama proposes homeowner aid, and Cheney makes a surprise appearance at CPAC. Plus: Fed raises rates for banks.

White House: Obama Will Propose Homeowner Aid

• "President Barack Obama is expected to announce plans" today "to provide an additional $1.5 billion to a state-assistance program for homeowners worst hit by the downturn in U.S. housing values," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The program, which" Obama "will announce in Las Vegas, is for states where the average home value for all homeowners in the state has dropped more than 20% from its value at the height of the housing bubble."

• Where Obama "has been reluctant at times to address domestic policy in terms of how it would specifically affect African Americans or Hispanics," first lady Michelle Obama has approached childhood obesity "differently, frequently bringing up issues of race, region and inequality," Politico reports.

 

Health Care: President To Release Plan Ahead Of Summit

• Obama "is preparing to release a proposal to restart the health-care debate before a White House meeting next week as the administration signaled that insurance company practices will be a focus of the talks.... A senior White House official said the plan will be posted by the morning of Feb. 22," Bloomberg News reports.

• "House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn't much like the fact that Democrats continue to piece together an agreement on healthcare reform in advance of a bipartisan summit next week," The Hill reports. "Boehner's office issued a statement to reporters Thursday once again calling on the White House and congressional Democrats to start from scratch on healthcare reform."

• "Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday joined the growing cavalcade of Democratic Senators urging Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to embrace the public insurance option and use reconciliation to pass health care reform," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

 

• "Facing relentless fiscal pressure and exploding demand for government health care, virtually every state is making or considering substantial cuts in Medicaid, even as Democrats push to add 15 million people to the rolls," the New York Times reports.

• While the H1N1 "outbreak has waned, the virus is still circulating and authorities warn that another wave of infections could hit," AP reports.

Politics: Boisterous CPAC Gets Under Way

• This year's Conservative Political Action Conference, "which began Thursday and will run through Saturday, had a festival atmosphere, as thousands of jubilant activists turned the Marriott Wardman Park ballroom into a hive of old-guard conservatives and Don't Tread on Me 'tea partiers' hungry for new leaders and messages that can carry the GOP out of the political wilderness," the Washington Post reports.

• "Former Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance Thursday at" CPAC "to pay homage to the movement and declare that" Obama "will be a 'one-term president,'" the Politico reports.

 

• "The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee out-raised its GOP counterpart by about $100,000 in January, which was a huge fundraising month for both Senate campaign committees," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Congress: Pelosi Targets Individual Republicans On Stimulus Blame

• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "is taking direct aim at individual Republicans, hinting at hypocrisy in their opposition to the stimulus package, saying it provided hundreds of thousands of their constituents tax cuts," Politico reports.

• "Democrats have yet to secure any Republican support for a $15 billion jobs bill," Schumer "said Thursday," The Hill reports. "Schumer also did not say if the entire Democratic Conference would vote on Monday to call up the legislation sponsored by" Reid.

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Energy & Environment: Administration Proposes New Emissions Rules

• "The Obama administration proposed rules Thursday that could affect construction of coal-fired power plants and other government-approved projects that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases," the Los Angeles Times reports. The guidelines "would require study of the greenhouse gas emissions of any project expected to emit at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year -- roughly 4,600 cars' worth."

• "Just two months after patching together a climate deal in Copenhagen, the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are trying to figure out how to keep the fragile accord together," the Washington Post reports.

• Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday "called on Congress to re-establish the expired biodiesel tax credit, citing it as a job creator in rural America in his address to USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.)" on Thursday "moved a step closer to starting a big fight with the natural gas industry over a controversial drilling technique behind a sharp rise in natural gas supplies. The two Democrats sent letters to CEOs of 8 companies asking that they list chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing," The Hill reports.

• "What supporters are calling the largest river and salmon restoration effort in American history took a critical step forward on Thursday, when formal agreements were signed to remove four dams and revise how water is shared in the Klamath River basin in southern Oregon and Northern California," the New York Times reports.

Economy: Fed Raises Rates For Banks

• Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke "and his colleagues at the Board of Governors raised the rate charged to banks for direct loans by a quarter-point to 0.75 percent, effective today," Bloomberg News reports. "It was the first increase in the discount rate since June 2006."

• "Red tape delayed a variety of federal stimulus projects including transportation-security upgrades, home weatherization and housing-project surveillance cameras, according to a government report," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Agencies responsible for administering stimulus dollars told the Government Accountability Office that complying with aspects regulating the use of the funds... were preventing them from moving more quickly to put stimulus money to work."

World: North Korea Testing Rockets Near Border

• "North Korea has declared four naval firing zones near its disputed sea border with South Korea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said," BBC News reports. "The South Korean news agency Yonhap says the North has deployed multiple rocket launchers close to the frontier."

• "A group of about two dozen Afghan national police officers may have defected to the Taliban, according to American and Afghan officers," the New York Times reports. "The police officers left their posts in Chak, a remote district of Wardak, just before midnight Wednesday, and on Thursday morning a spokesman for the Taliban claimed that the officers had surrendered to them."

National Security: Japan Pressures U.S. On Marine Base

• "The relocation of the Futenma Marine base on Okinawa is at the center of a feud between Washington and Tokyo that is eroding support for Japan's governing Democratic Party and setting its coalition partners at odds ahead of an election expected in July," Reuters reports. "'Okinawa is in the perfect place in the region,' said Lieutenant General Keith Stalder, when asked about suggestions that the base be moved to Guam or the tiny island of Tinian."

Transportation: Toyota CEO Will Testify Before Congress

• Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda "has agreed to testify before a House committee about the safety concerns surrounding Toyota gas pedals," The Hill reports.

Technology: Regulators Clear Alliance Between Microsoft And Yahoo

• "Antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe cleared Microsoft Corp.'s plan to form an Internet-search alliance with Yahoo Inc., a partnership the companies hope will be a potent challenger to Google Inc.," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

Lobbying: Battle Continues Between Boeing and Northrop Grumman

• "Defense Department officials are trying to be 'as fair as humanly possible' in the competition to replace the Air Force's refueling tanker aircraft, " said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell on Thursday. "Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been going head to head for several years to win the approximately $35 billion tanker contract," The Hill reports.

Commentary: Evaluating The Deficit Commission

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Peggy Noonan weighs the helpfulness of the new deficit panel.

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